How to give amazing nutrition coaching that drops the lbs without being a nutritionist (Part 2) (Interview with Kristian Leach)

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Highlights from the interview

[07:39] – A simple nutrition coaching methodology that any trainer can use to teach nutrition while staying within their scope of practice

[13:27] – What recipes, videos, coaching to include in your weight loss program to create value and weight loss

[23:18] – How to know your macros when eating out and balancing protein macro percentages for Vegans

[27:07] – How do you focus on nutrient goals like fiber intake and if you should count total carbs or net carbs

[32:56] – How Kristian went from 0 customer to extremely booked — by learning from 2 big mistakes


About our Guest

This is part two of my interview with Kristian Leach. He initially set out to be a teacher, but soon fell in love with personal training. 

He started in a big box gym, like a lot of us. And then he found his way in leasing space and doing online training. He makes, I would guess, about six figures and he can customize his schedule around his young family. 

What’s interesting about Christian is that he’s found success really quickly as a personal trainer, which we all know isn’t actually that easy. 

He actually grew his online business to having too many clients and all with free Facebook marketing. In addition, in this three-part interview series with him, we find out not only how he has found success in his career, but how he’s made it work for his family life and who he is as a person.


Edited transcription of Fitness Business Secrets Podcast, Episode 34

A simple nutrition coaching methodology that any trainer can use to teach nutrition while staying within their scope of practice

[07:39] Kristy: This is really interesting just because for a lot of trainers, people ask them about nutrition, what to eat, and it gets really confusing.

So, I think this brings up a good point about portion size — that type of program. I know that precision nutrition is one of the top certification programs, but at the same time, some people might not be fully familiar with their methodology.

Could you tell me in a very summary perspective, how then do you tell people what to eat if you’re not telling them exactly what to eat at each time of day through portions? 

Kristian: So, just a little bit of background on precision nutrition. It’s a nutrition certification program founded by a PhD in nutrition, his name’s John Berardi. Half of their program is high level nutrition, university level dietician stuff. Half of it is habit based coaching, but it was designed with the understanding that you are not a dietician. 

You’re not telling people exactly what to eat or recommending supplements or working with special populations like diabetics or things like that. Their premise is based on visuals of portion sizes.

For example, a thumb of fat at each meal varies based on the individual.  A fist of veggies at each meal, a palm size serving of protein, a cupped palm size, a serving of starchy carbohydrates, and that’s it. So, when you create a visual, that’s within your scope of practice as a precision nutrition coach, but the nice thing is it touches on habits often. 

People don’t fail their diets because they don’t understand the plans. They’re not able to actually change their habits.

People don’t fail their diets because they don’t understand the plans. They’re not able to actually change their habits.

The nice thing about the program too is it has the science. If you do get asked some questions, we’ll get it all explained, such as the process of ketosis. Well, you’ve learned all that, so you know how to answer that. 

That lends a lot of credibility. Rarely are you going to just get into a higher level explanation of ketosis or the Krebs cycle or something like that. But, if somebody asks you that, it’s good to be able to answer. It really elevates your status. 

Know when to NOT focus on portions with your clients

Kristy: For your program, since it’s portion based, let’s say the thumb and supposed to be that the hand is relative to the size of your body. What do you actually customize if the portions are kind of known? 

Kristian: You would customize the amount of portions per day. Let’s say a small sedentary woman is going through menopause. She’s going to have very few portions of generally carbohydrates in each day. You might want a decent amount of portions of protein. So, you’re customizing exactly how many portions of protein, carbs and fats they are having in a day.

I do calculate it all in terms of the macros, but it’s overwhelming for a lot of people to follow the macros. So, I’m taking the macros and converting it to portion sizes. Essentially, you’re customizing the macros for everybody, but all they’re looking at is, “I see. I get three servings of carbs a day and here’s my list to choose from.”

Then, the next person. If they’re training for the Ultra Spartan Race, they might get five servings of carbohydrates a day. Your job is to dictate how many portions they get, and then to coach them whether or not they’re achieving that. For some people, if they have really poor nutrition knowledge and maybe really bad nutrition practices.

Let’s say they’re morbidly obese and they’re kind of eating junk food all the time. You don’t even need to get them to hit that portion plan. You just need to get them to eat better. That can be the portion plan might be too overwhelming for them. So, for a lot of people, I’m like, “They’re ready to hit that plan on day one.”

For some people, I’m like, “We don’t even have to hit that plan in the first six weeks.” 

Then, that’s kind of how you sell them. That’s our end goal. Let’s just eat better than we did yesterday. When I log into their coaching group, I’m telling them how they could have done better and what they did.

Reinforcing in good choices. That’s why I say the value is in the coaching. I’m still going to make that customized plan, but I know based on their intake form and some of the struggles they may have had, or based on their food diary, it doesn’t even matter if they follow that plan.

It just matters that they take my advice and that I don’t overwhelm them in the beginning. Because if they’re eating McDonald’s four times a day, then any positive change is going to create results. You just want to keep building from there. 

Kristy: So, very gradual based off of where they are right now.

Kristian: Absolutely. That’s one thing that precision nutrition helps you identify. I think a lot of us could do it on our own. They kind of rate clients on a skill level in terms of nutrition from one to four. So, you kind of figure out, “Where is that? Is that a highly skilled client? Is that client very motivated? Has good food Knowledge and is already eating well?” 

Then, you’re going to get them to try to nail that plan right away because you think they can. If somebody is struggling with emotional eating, makes really poor food choices and doesn’t even really know what a carbohydrate is, then there’s going to be a lot more leeway there and they don’t need to completely nail that portion plan or completely overhaul their diet to get some really amazing results.


What recipes, videos, coaching to include in your weight loss program to create value and weight loss

[13:27] Kristy: I had done different fitness challenges for my gym. I read through the precision nutrition book, and it sounds like you’ve been really successful. So, I want to ask you some questions. 

It sounds like you give them this recipe book and custom portion sizes per day. Is there anything else you give them on what to eat? Like a list of foods to eat and not to eat at certain times of days or pictures. What do you give them?

I think it’s easy for a client to want to think what they want to think, so they can still eat what they want to eat. 

Kristian: It’s a good question. The initial delivery is the recipe book, the portion based plan, and then the programs on Trainerize, so they can log in and the whole program is laid out for them.

Then, the food list that corresponds to the portion plan. So, there’s the portion plan. It’s one thing to say, “One portion of protein, but here’s a list of lean proteins. Here’s a list of fattier protein.”

So, all of that is there for them. Then, screen recorded videos because here’s the one tricky thing with this demographic. Not to single them out, but postmenopausal women in retirement age might not be as tech savvy as people in a younger demographic.

So, I try to film everything and screen capture from the phone and from Facebook because I operate a lot of the coaching through Facebook, so that they can watch the videos and follow along. “Here’s how I find this. Here’s how I do this.”

I think that the real value for me has been in referrals and in the coaching I give on a daily basis.

So, you mentioned foods, what to eat or what not to eat. I have a lot of videos that I offer to this group each day, and it explains why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’ll spend a week on emotional eating. We’ll spend time talking about why we maybe want you to focus more on weight training and a little less on cardio.

So, there’s thematics that we go through each week, and most of it is recorded videos or documents that are provided. I try to add value to each day and each week. The nice thing is once those videos become prerecorded, a lot of them you can use again. I will say I had to record a whole whack of brand new videos when COVID hit, because I needed to speak to that.

For a lot of people during COVID, the nutrition coaching was more about maintenance and keeping your head above water than trying to pour pressure on people to lose weight like I thought that would be. 

For a lot of people during COVID, the nutrition coaching was more about maintenance and keeping your head above water than trying to pour pressure on people to lose weight like I thought that would be. 

If the people already signed up, that would be frankly inappropriate to say, “Let’s do it. Let’s dig in,” when somebody just got laid off or they can’t see their sick mother in a nursing home. 

That daily check-in will keep people accountable, interested, and engaged. That’s where the referrals come in, and you say, “You’re going to get this, but you’re going to be able to learn so much about why your low carb diet before didn’t work and how to deal with your emotional eating.” 

That’s where I really try to add value. I probably said this twice in the interview already, but the meal plan is the least valuable thing. I can give these clients the daily interactions and the daily problem solving.

I know some people will write to me at the start of a week, “I have three social functions this week and I’m worried I’m going to blow all my results. I’m not looking forward to this week.” 

Then, I’m like, “Let’s talk about it. Where are you going? What are you doing? Here’s what we can do. Here’s our strategy. If you follow this strategy, you will actually lose weight this week and be able to go out for pizza on this night and two glasses of wine the next night. This is what we have to do”. 

I think that’s really value added for them because if you are following a diet book or if you’re following that premade meal plan, none of that advice is really on there now.

I think that’s what probably won some clients over in the weeks where they normally would have gained three pounds, maybe they didn’t even lose anything, but maybe they didn’t gain anything. That’s a huge win for them. 

How Coaching is more valuable than the meal plan

Kristy: Yeah. I think that’s huge. You’re really helping trainers understand what their clients really need so you can help them see success.

So, you give the client a book of recipes, a portion, which is the custom meal plan and is probably what the client goes into thinking they need. 

Kristian: That’s what they think they need.

Kristy: But then, what you really support them is I hear you tell them why it works. You give them lessons, these videos you record, daily coaching and weekly check-ins. Then, you also give them problem solving and some kind of lessons on how to do what they should do, and that’s really good.

Kristian: Like you said, they think they need that meal plan, so that’s why I provide it. Some of them do follow it, so I do think that is something that should be provided, but that’s not what’s going to keep people sticking around. I know that it’s a nice idea to think, “I designed a meal plan and sent it to a client. I get paid, and then they get the results.” 

That’s only gonna last for as long as they’re following that meal plan and they’re not gonna follow up forever. One of the things I started to do on my website with the testimonials is share a testimony from somebody who’s lost weight, and then follow up with them two or three years later.

They’ve still kept the weight off, and I think it’s because of the coaching more so than the meal plan. 

Kristy: That’s huge showing that your program and specific methodology works. I think that’s a really great solution for people who get bogged down and are like, “There’s no way I can create this specific– eat this at this time, and the recipes.” 

No one ever follows it, and it’s tough. 

How do you manage portions for foods that are not just 1 type of macro (think beans & veggies)?

Kristy: So, I did have one question. I’m sure you have a solution for this. What do you do when certain things are not straight carbs and straight protein, and then size-wise? Then, people fall off their chair like, “I don’t know what to do anymore.” 

Let’s say beans. I think it’s half protein and half carbs. How does someone break it up portion-wise?

Kristian: That’s a really good question. Within the food guide are two things. Some common ones would be a fattier protein. So, chicken breast is all good and dandy, but what if you want to have chicken thigh, which has more fat? Then, two chicken thighs will take up your protein and your fat serving for that meal. There’s a distinction between fattier and lean proteins, and then there’s also vegetarian protein sources. 

I was just discussing this with a lady yesterday. You look at chickpeas. A cup of chickpeas is going to have 24 grams of protein and 48 grams of carbs. You can count that as your protein source, but that also counts as your carbs source because we’re ballparking one portion of protein around 25 grams and a portion of carbs around 40 grams. 

I’ve made some distinctions there for sure. In this demographic, we’re not counting the carbohydrates in green veggies. We’re not even going to count them in carrots. I haven’t met anybody who’s gotten obese from eating carrots. 

Obviously, if you’re training for a fitness competition or something, you probably won’t want to count your vegetable carbs. So, we only count the starchy carbs as carbs, but those are tricky ones. Then, even within that portion guide, some people do want to know the numbers, especially with MyFitnessPal and whatnot.

I put the numbers there, so people can see them. It could be different for other coaches and that’s fine, but I constitute 40 grams of carbs as a serving of carbs. So, I list that at the bottom, “These are the portion equivalents.” 

If you’re reading a label and that label says, “30 grams of carbs,” that’s three quarters of a portion of carbs.

If you’re reading a label and that label says, “30 grams of carbs,” that’s three quarters of a portion of carbs.

So, they can do the math that they want. I do think that is something important to learn because we’re not always just going to be eating plain chicken breasts with a palm-size potato and some green beans. We’re going to be having pre-packaged stuff and whatnot.

I do actually recommend people to go to It’s a fantastic website because it has all the macronutrients listed, and obviously it varies on the recipe. Their recipes are about one third protein, one third carbs, and one third fat, but I really liked the fact that they share the macronutrients because even if I hadn’t seen the recipe, a client can send it to me and say, “Hey, what do you think?” 

I’m like, “Well, I can tell you exactly what I think because I don’t have to add up all the portions.” 

Once the client learns 40 grams of carbs as a portion, then they can look at that recipe and know.

So, that is one of the trickier parts of maybe buying a healthy recipe book or looking online if they don’t list the macronutrients. 

It’s maybe some super buddha bowl with a cup of quinoa, a cup of chickpeas, some goddess avocado sauce, and some walnuts. That’s all healthy stuff, but the calories could approach a thousand calories. That’s why I try to advise people to at least be able to understand the macronutrients involved in what they’re eating.


How to know your macros when eating out

[23:18] Kristy: That is a great thing. I happen to love those types of bowls, and if I was to talk to someone about it, it gets really tricky. Do you then recommend people not to even eat out during your program? Because it’s so hard.

Kristian: I don’t recommend them not to eat out, but I do recommend them to spend some time — it’s easy to find the values for most foods. There’s franchise restaurants. I’m trying to think of one in the United States like Olive Garden or The Old Spaghetti Factory. All that stuff would be up online.

I try to get them to not stress. Look at the values, then we can try and work that into your meal plan if you want to go to the Olive Garden. Fettuccine alfredo is a really tough one. I think it’s 2000 calories for a serving there. But, I try to get them to not stress. 

Let’s say if you’re going to an Italian hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and there’s no way they have the nutrition posted. You want to get the spaghetti and meatballs, and you’d have no idea what’s in there. Just look up the spaghetti and meatballs on the Olive Garden and use that as your value. Use that to equate. So, I don’t discourage people from eating out.

Part of the portion plan is one indulgent meal a week. Some people call it a cheat meal where you don’t have to count anything. So, on that meal, don’t worry about it. Don’t count. Go out and have fun. Then, realize, “This scale is going to be up in a couple of days, but you’re going to be losing again within a couple of days, mostly water weight that you’re holding.”

There’s no requirement to quantify what’s in that meal, but then if we are going out for a second time in a week, we should try and make sure we’re staying within our portion plan. Sometimes that means they carry their carbohydrates over from earlier in the day and back load them to later in the day, and their fats as well.

The one thing I heard people do is don’t starve yourself during the day because then, you’re going to eat everything in sight when you go out. Just more of a protein and veggies approach during the day to prepare for that extra indulgent meal. 

Balancing protein macro percentages on a Vegan diet

Kristy: You mentioned talking to someone about veggie proteins. Since your program is one third-one third, is that hard for people to get to if they’re on a mostly vegan or vegetarian program? 

Kristian: That’s a great question. Often what we ended up doing with a vegetarian is increasing. It can be hard for sure. Sometimes we will actually increase the fat and decrease the protein, but we try not to budge much on the carbohydrates, particularly in this demographic like perimenopausal and menopausal women.

It’s kind of a double-edged sword. They tend to be a little bit more insulin resistant, so they don’t seem to tolerate carbohydrates as well. Often, the changing hormones cause more carb cravings, and more carb intake causes more carb cravings. 

Even for the vegetarians, we try not to budge on that, but we do try and recognize that it’s going to be harder to get one third protein without going over on your carbs. So then, we dropped the protein a bit and up the fat a bit. Maybe they’re 25% protein and 45% fat or something like that, rather than being one third-one third. It is one of the trickier populations to work with.

When I first started doing these portion plans, that was something I had to really think about, and kind of consult some of my notes and do some research on it. It is tough. If you’re relying purely on vegetable proteins, it’s hard to keep the carbs down.

That’s why we said, “Let’s drop the protein a bit, and then up the fat because we want that satiety from the proteins and the fats. We don’t want to be too carb dominant.”


How do you focus on nutrient goals like fiber intake?

[27:07] Kristy: That’s a really good solution. One last question about how you approach your nutrition for them. How do you calculate fiber? Do you try to say, “This type of carb because so much of it is fiber.” Do you ever do that?

Kristian: What we try and do is part of the Sunday check-in is asking somebody about the regularity, if you will. Just on a scale of one to 10, how regular? If things are going well, we’re not really going to dig into it. They’re sending me what they’re eating every day, but I’m not going to pick through and try and calculate fiber. If I don’t see any vegetables, then it’s a red flag right away.

Unless they’re having issues with going number two, we won’t look at fiber. If they are having issues, then we’ll look through it. I’ll do a quick calculation for them. Generally speaking for 1,000 calories per consumer, we’re looking for 10 to 14 grams of fiber. So, it varies from person to person, but if you’re having 1,500 calories, maybe we’re looking for 20 grams of fiber.

Then, if they’re not getting it, then we can look at increasing leafy greens, or maybe even taking a fiber supplement if that’s necessary. That’s not something I dig into because I think you kind of have to draw the line somewhere of how many things you make them track.

Some people choose to actually take the numbers that are, again, not necessarily focused on the portion plan. They’re going to track on MyFitnessPal. If that’s the case, I get them to go in with MyFitnessPal or the Lose It! app. You can get the bottom screen to show fiber. It doesn’t always default to it. Then, they’ll say, “This is your 10 to 14 grams per thousand calories.” 

I’ll do the math for them. If we’re getting 15 to 20 grams of fiber, great. For somebody who is eating more, that’d be 20 to 25. I led that  Sunday check-in whether we really need to dig it on fiber.

Kristy: I like that. It’s really interesting. Why not ask them about their poop schedule? Because I think it’s one easy way without tracking another number. Who wants to track more things and how that’s going? 

Kristian: It’s important for maybe analyzing whether they’re low in fiber or water, but to get them to try and record their water intake.

Let’s say the scale reads heavier than they thought, and then they answered, “Well, I haven’t pooped in two days under that.” 

No wonder the scales are happier. So, tracking that can psychologically explain that that’s the reason why the scale hasn’t gone down. You were bang on with your meals. You definitely lost body fat, but things are backed up a little bit. 

Sometimes that has happened with clients. So I’m like, “It’s your digestive issue. It’s not an issue with you doing a bad job this week.”

How to give direction on if you should count total carbs or net carbs

Kristy: Let’s say there’s times when I was really dieting or something, and then I’d look at the quest bar, for example. It says three net carbs, and then I’d get so confused or somebody asked me that question. 

When you’re counting and going by one third macro, or let’s say the vegetarian is different, what do you tell them when they say, “Does this count? Is it three carbs or is it 19 carbs?” 

Kristian: That’s a good one. It’s a hotly debated topic. You have carbohydrates in there that are coming from sugar alcohols and some of them are coming from insoluble fiber. Before I answer that, I will say with those bars, what I do tell people, regardless of counting the carbs, is be wary of how your body digest them. 

I can eat a quest bar with no problem. My wife has one and she’s really not feeling well. I think that the density of fiber in that bar is hard for some people, but there’s debates either way. Can your body metabolize those carbs? Can they not? 

I tell people can’t count all the carbs. Just look at the label and count all the carbs. You get some really high level debates in the nutrition world on that. I think one of the reasons why I tell people that to count all the carbs on those more than anything is regardless of whether you’re going to assimilate all those carbs that have the potential to store them as fat.

If everybody starts thinking of those as freebie carbs, they might start becoming too reliant on the protein bars. I don’t have a problem with the protein bars. My main philosophy on the bars is use them for convenience. If you’re going from one meeting to the next at work and you need to get something in quickly, use them as a mitigating strategy.

I’m on the way home from work. I’m ravenous. I don’t want to stop at McDonald’s. So, I’m going to have this protein bar just to kind of calm me down, but I don’t want people to rely on them too much. Also, I think that they can cause some digestive issues. 

So, my philosophy is to count them all as carbs, but I know that some people watching this might disagree with me on that, and that’s okay. 

Kristy: Well, sometimes you’ve got to keep the rules simple. I think those were incredible tips for a trainer who’s trying to get their mind around how to advise people on what to eat since they’re going to be asked that. If I could ask just a few more questions about your online training business because that’s like a black box. 

People are like, “It sounded real easy to you, but it’s very hard for me.”


How Kristian went from ZERO customer to extremely booked — by learning from 2 big mistakes

[32:56] Kristy: Let’s say you’ve got maybe your first few clients from current clients, but from there, I can’t imagine they were all referrals. How did you get more online clients for that business since it really boomed for you?

Kristian: I should probably preface and say all the things I did wrong first. For anybody watching this who’s thinking about maybe launching your first program or whatever, before I’d even really built a rapport online, I just bought some Facebook advertising to advertise the program, and focused on what you get and spend a few hundred bucks on Facebook ads.

I think people didn’t know me as an online trainer, and that didn’t work very well. It was just, “Sign up for my program. Here you go.” 

1. Asking for the sale too quickly 

I did have some testimonials and whatnot, but I think I asked too quickly. I didn’t get any return on the Facebook ads initially, because I think I jumped into it too fast. So, I stepped back. 

Solution: I decided to try to be on Facebook most days and offer free advice and respond to any comments I’ve had, and the business kind of started trickling that way. 

It was just creating an online presence. 

2. Not being himself

The other thing I’d say I did wrong in the beginning was I saw what some other successful trainers were doing, and I tried to almost emulate them. Then, I wasn’t really being myself.

Some of them were actually very bold with what they were saying. So, I thought, “I have to be bold. I’ve got to be along the lines of being a jerk. The keto diet is stupid or something like that. I veto the keto.”

That’s one thing I posted and I think I was pushing some people away, but that wasn’t me at all. I was spending hours trying to figure out how to make these infographics. Some of them actually are useful. I was just doing that because other people were doing that, but I found that I do quite well with the writing.

So, I just started writing out advice. I tried to make it very kind and not judgemental, and the response was a lot better. Regardless of how I feel about a certain diet, I will now discuss that diet with the pros and cons because there’s a 100% chance somebody reading that post is trying that diet.

If I may make them feel stupid for trying it, then they’re probably not going to hire me. I give a sound explanation on either side. Build some rapport and give free advice.

Solution: Be yourself. For me, I was trying to be somewhat controversial and I found that was exhausting and it just didn’t feel right.

People just start to message me sometimes from seeing that or somebody said, “My friend shared your post and I saw it.” 

The interesting thing is I’ve gotten so busy now that I don’t have as much time to do those posts on Facebook. But, when I do that, the response is usually good. I have people actually tell me, “I hired you because you seem to have a really reasonable approach.” 

One of the things I did in my Facebook bio is I coach people and I try not to be a dick about it. That’s my thing. Depending on your circle, the people, and your avatar, they might not want that soft approach. They might want to take a firm stand. 

“I like you because you’ve taken a firm stand.” 

That’s not me, but if that’s you, go for that. In terms of business models, maybe copy models of what people are doing successfully. In terms of your voice, don’t copy somebody else’s voice because that’s not you. People are going to connect with you.

Stay tuned for the Part 3 of this interview with Kristian!

Kristian Leach

Facebook: Kristian Leach

Website: KrisFit





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